Not currently on display at the V&A

The Stein Collection

Rope
200-400 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Of these two fragments of rope, one is made of twisted grass and the other of leather thongs. The rope of twisted grass has been doubled back on itself and knotted at intervals, giving it a chain-like appearance. It is unclear what these objects would have been used for, although they are likely to have had a utilitarian function. They were recovered from the site of Loulan, which dates from the 3rd to the 4th century AD. The site of Loulan is remarkable for the carved wooden capitals, beams and balustrades that show clear affinities with western Classical decoration that filtered through Iran and Northwest India.

The sites are part of an area of Central Asia we now call the Silk Road, a series of overland trade routes that crossed Asia, from China to Europe. The most notable item traded was silk. Camels and horses were used as pack animals and merchants passed the goods from oasis to oasis. The Silk Road was also important for the exchange of ideas. Whilst silk textiles travelled west from China, Buddhism entered China from India in this way.

This textile was brought back from Central Asia by the explorer and archaeologist Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943). The V&A has around 650 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Stein at the beginning of the 20th century. Some are silk while others are made from the wool of a variety of different animals.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Twisted leather and grass
Brief Description
Two fragments of rope made of twisted grass and leather respectively.
Physical Description
Two fragment of rope made of twisted grass and leather thongs respectively. The rope of twisted grass has been doubled back on itself and knotted at intervals, giving it the look of a chain.
Dimensions
  • Length: 25cm
  • Width: 6.5cm
Measured as seen
Styles
Credit line
Stein Textile Loan Collection. On loan from the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. Copyright: Government of India.
Object history
The different ropes are kept together in a bundle by a rectangular metal-rimmed label showing Stein number possibly in Stein's handwriting or that of his assistant, Miss F M G Lorimer.
Historical context
Loulan was once an important garrison town which lay between the Pei shan and Taklamakan deserts on the Silk Road. The city was also a centre of Buddhist worship. When Sven Hedin explored the site in 1900, he discovered remains of a stupa, reliefs depicting Buddhas among lotuses, and statues of deities. This strategically important city is mentioned in Chinese records for the first time in 176 BC with the conquest by the Xiongnu, but the area fell under Chinese control around 100 BC. Located in the middle of the Silk Road, Loulan had contacts with many cultures, represented by hundreds of documents in Chinese, Indian Kharosthi, and Sogdian scripts which were unearthed by Hedin and Stein. A woollen cloth, which Stein found in a tomb, depicted the head of Hermes and his caduceus, or staff, in the classical style of western Asia. He also unearthed a number of mummies with feathered felt caps and arrow shafts by their sides; which indicated that a community of herdsmen and hunters had inhabited the region long before various imperial conquests. Loulan flourished until the fourth century AD, when it was abandoned, due to the desiccation of a nearby lake, Lop Nor. The V&A holds, on loan, a large number of textiles from Loulan, including cotton, wool and figured silks, carpet and tapestry fragments.
Association
Summary
Of these two fragments of rope, one is made of twisted grass and the other of leather thongs. The rope of twisted grass has been doubled back on itself and knotted at intervals, giving it a chain-like appearance. It is unclear what these objects would have been used for, although they are likely to have had a utilitarian function. They were recovered from the site of Loulan, which dates from the 3rd to the 4th century AD. The site of Loulan is remarkable for the carved wooden capitals, beams and balustrades that show clear affinities with western Classical decoration that filtered through Iran and Northwest India.



The sites are part of an area of Central Asia we now call the Silk Road, a series of overland trade routes that crossed Asia, from China to Europe. The most notable item traded was silk. Camels and horses were used as pack animals and merchants passed the goods from oasis to oasis. The Silk Road was also important for the exchange of ideas. Whilst silk textiles travelled west from China, Buddhism entered China from India in this way.



This textile was brought back from Central Asia by the explorer and archaeologist Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943). The V&A has around 650 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Stein at the beginning of the 20th century. Some are silk while others are made from the wool of a variety of different animals.
Bibliographic Reference
Stein, Aurel, Serindia: Detailed Report of Exploration in Central Asia and Westernmost China Carried Out and Described Under the Orders of H.M Indian Government , 5 vols (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1921), vol. I, p. 438.
Other Number
L.A.VI.ii.0033.a-b - Stein number
Collection
Accession Number
LOAN:STEIN.83

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record createdFebruary 13, 2004
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